Topic: Mystical Masons 'just ordinary men'

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Hauraki Herald reporter Gillian O’Neill meet a long-time Thames resident and business owner who is keen to dispel a few myths about his beloved Freemasons. Her story appeared in the Hauraki Herald on January 28, 2011.

KERRY Doherty is a man fascinated by history. Whether it’s his Irish ancestry, his tough Catholic education in Thames or the stash of memories from almost half a century as a photographer, he has a whole host of interesting tales to tell.

Maybe most intriguing of all isMaybe most intriguing of all is the Thames native’s 18-year journey to the lofty position of Hauraki District Grand Master of the Freemasons. In his new role, Mr Doherty is keen to lift the lid a little on the often misunderstood men’s society and dispel many of the myths associated with it.

‘‘It’s not a secret society. The guys who join are just ordinary men. From the early days in 1870 through to today, professions involved in the Sir Walter Scott Lodge in Thames have included butchers, carpenters, dentists, fishermen, hotel keepers, teachers,’’ he pointed out.

‘‘Yes, it’s a society with secrets. But really if anyone wanted to find out what they are they could just go online and they’d get it all.’’

 Mr Doherty is well known as the former proprietor of Doherty’s Photo Centre which was located in Pollen St. But, in his early trading days, his public persona masked a shy individual with little belief in what he could achieve.

‘‘I really had no confidence in myself when I left school. It had been really hard and I often cried because I didn’t want to go. I thought that if I took pictures I could hide in the darkroom all day and wouldn’t have to talk to anyone,’’ he said. ‘‘So I got a job with a local photographer and then my Dad bought me the business a couple of years later.

He was Jim Doherty and he had a quarry up in the Kauaeranga Valley.

‘‘I soon realised that I had to meet people and deal with them. It was part of the job. I had 72 weddings that first year and I suppose I slowly got more comfortable with it. But it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I really started to have confidence in myself again.’’

Still working from home, Mr Doherty describes himself as semi-retired and has found the changing industry fascinating. ‘‘The arrival of digital cameras changed everything. Anyone with a bit of flair can pretty much be a photographer, that’s just a fact.

‘‘When I started, for the first 10 years most of the time was spent under the filtered light in the darkroom. You might have 15 rolls of film to process. You only had one shot at it, so you were hoping you had it right when you made the prints.

‘‘People had great faith in the photographer then, they trusted you to get it right, to know what to do. I loved the weddings especially, you were able to give a bit of advice to the bride and help her out and make things a bit easier.’’

 Mr Doherty’s home office is a treasure trove of memories from times past. ‘‘There are boxes of negatives going back to 1975. Occasionally someone will contact me if a picture has been lost or damaged and I’ll be able to get it out and have it reprinted. There are a lot of memories there. We knew almost everyone in town, they were all in the shop at some stage, they were really good times.’’

Since closing the shop a few years ago, Mr Doherty has enjoyed spending time with his wife Jan, his three children and four grandchildren. However, most of his spare time goes on his work with the Freemasons.

‘‘I’d love to see more young guys joining. The most important thing is that everyone is equal. Once you go through those lodge doors it doesn’t matter if you’re a millionaire or a retired person with very little income.

Benevolence is a big part of it. We especially try and give support to young people and the elderly,’’ he said.

Thames High School, Manawatu Flood Relief, Thames Cancer Support and Starship Foundation are all groups to have benefited from the help of the Freemasons. The society also secured a grant of $17,500 to provide the kitchen for the new Thames Plunket Rooms, from the Wellington Grand Lodge, which allocates Freemason funding to projects across the country.

‘‘I think my family are proud of how far I’ve come within the organisation. I just never thought that I’d be able to reach that height. I love the satisfaction that you get from helping people. There are some great friendships. It has given me great confidence, it has also helped sharpen my brain and I think young men today would get a lot out of it.’’

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Mystical Masons 'just ordinary men'

First Names:Kerry
Last Name:Doherty